President-elect Obama has rightly received praise for reaching out to congressional Republicans. But he’s following an old path. In 1969, RN did something similar. From a The New York Times report dateline January 28, 1969 (published the next day):
President Nixon set out today to woo a Democratic Congress, dropping by the House for an impromptu round of hand-shaking and chitchat and a luncheon with leaders of both parties. Tomorrow he will visit the Senate and dine with leaders there. It was the first time in more than 20 years that a President has paid a call on the House, except to deliver a State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. … Today President Nixon spent more than an hour in the well of the House, pumping hands, grasping shoulders, and occasionally whispering with key members — primarily Democratic committee chairmen — as they filed by.
The report also reminds us how much racial attitudes have evolved. One passage includes language that the Times would today denounce as demeaning:
Most of the absentees were Democrats, including all but one of the nine Negro members. Only William Dawson, an aging Negro from Illinois, walked down the aisle to greet Mr. Nixon.